Archive for the ‘Self Help’ Category

thoughts-are-things
by Fred W. Anson

Personally, I find it helpful to get the “Is the LdS Church a cult or not” discussion out of the arena of doctrine and theology. After all very often arguing doctrine with religionists ultimately always seems to come down to a “my opinion v. your opinion” stale mate.

So let’s see if we can put the question on a more objective, dispassionate plane.

Instead why don’t we choose to label “cults” based not on doctrine, but whether or not the group exercises the mental and sociological control elements common in cults and recognized by secular counter-cult experts.

There are many sociological aspects we can examine to determine if a group fits the criteria of a “cult,” but one of the easiest models to use in evaluating cult mind-control is given by Steven Hassan. In his book “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” Mr. Hassan calls his mind-control model, “BITE“, which stands for “Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions.” This diagnostic model was based primarily on Robert Lifton’s work but also draws from research from Margaret Singer, Leon Festinger and many others. It doesn’t target any group in particular and can be applied to any group be they religious, political, secular, etc. It just doesn’t matter. Here is the Steven Hassan BITE Model:1

“Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” by Steven Hassan

“Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” by Steven Hassan

BEHAVIOR CONTROL
• Regulation of individual’s physical reality
• Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
• Need to ask permission for major decisions o Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
• Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques positive and negative)
• Individualism discouraged; “group think” prevails
• Rigid rules and regulations
• Need for obedience and dependency

INFORMATION CONTROL
• Use of deception
• Access to non cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
• Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
• Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
• Spying on other members is encouraged
• Unethical use of confession

THOUGHT CONTROL
• Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
• Use of “loaded” language (for example, “thought terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.”
• Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
• Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states
• Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories
• Use of thought stopping techniques, which shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts
• Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate.
• No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

EMOTIONAL CONTROL
• Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings
• Make the person feel that if there are ever any problems, it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s
• Excessive use of guilt
• Excessive use of fear
• Extremes of emotional highs and lows
• Ritual and often public confession of “sins”
• Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.

Steven Hassan

Steven Hassan

BITE Anayses by Former Latter-day Saints
Mr. Hassan recommends that the BITE Model analysis be done by former members as they have the greatest insight into the group’s formal and informal behavior. Furthermore, since one aspect of Mind Control Cults is lying, deceit, misinformation, “spin” and other obfuscating techniques for hiding “insider” secrets, active members and official group resources (such as websites, tracts, and other public facing materials) typically only allow an investigator to see a false, friendly facade rather than true, harsh internal reality. So with that in mind, here are links to the BITE analyses that have been completed by former Mormons. I would politely suggest that these analyses answer this nagging question rather nicely – and I will leave it to the reader to decide the answer for them self what that answer is:

The BITE Model and Mormon Control
by Luna Lindsey (an ExMormon)
http://www.rationalrevelation.com/library/bite.html (retrieved 2012-09-25)

The BITE model applied toward Momonism’s two-year missionary program as submitted by an ex-Mormon
https://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=372 (retrieved 2014-08-09)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism as submitted by an ex-Mormon https://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=370 (retrieved 2014-08-09)

Below: Steven Hassan speaking at the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference in 2008.

NOTES
1 Steven Hassan, “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves”, Ch.2.  Also see http://www.freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php.

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loveguruHere’s another classic Luna Flesher Lindsey article for your enjoyment, edification, and enlightenment. If you like this article please consider getting a copy of Luna’s book “Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control”

Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing
by Luna Flesher Lindsey
I’ve studied a lot about mind control over the years. My interest piqued shortly after I left a rigorous and restrictive religion. I wanted to better understand how I had willingly allowed myself to be controlled, all the while believing and protesting loudly that I was free.

These methods are deceptive and unethical, tricking the mind rather than persuading through honesty and reason. Knowing this, I now have a very unique perspective on American politics. I can see these techniques used all the time, by politicians, media, and regular people.

This is not owing to a vast conspiracy. It doesn’t take an evil mastermind to notice certain approaches work better to persuade. These methods have always worked and will always continue to work, and so they perpetuate through society. Some who study memetics might even say they self-replicate.

This post is one in a series called “Mind Control 101″, which precedes its non-evil step-twin, “Logical Fallacies 101″.

Please do not use this as a How To! I address this topic not with the intent that you try to take over the world. In instead wish to make you better able to defend yourself when your mind comes under assault.

Let’s begin with the myths. The entire subject of brainwashing is “loaded”. Loading a word is itself, fittingly, a mind control technique that limits thought by giving you preconceived and highly incorrect notions. I’ll start “deprogramming” you by showing where your existing understanding of the topic is probably far from reality.

Mind catrol - ur doing it rong akshully

Remember this guy? Well, he’s STILL doing it wrong!

When I say these words, “Thought Control” or “Brainwashing”, you no doubt envision a wild-haired hypnotist swinging a silver watch, while a stern doctor injects your arm with a strange serum. In the background, hooded figures chant, and soon your eyes begin to glaze over. All the while you are helpless to resist because you are strapped to a chair.

This is all complete fantasy. The great secret is that while being brainwashed you feel in complete control of yourself. A much more accurate term is “coercive persuasion“, because you are persuaded to want the same thing the manipulator wants, to believe as he wants you to believe.

Those who have been thusly persuaded never know they have been brainwashed. Conversely if you think you’ve been brainwashed, you probably haven’t been.

So let’s dispel some myths, shall we?

Thought reform does not require physical restraint.
Scientists used to think this, back in the 1950s, when American POWs returned from Korea singing the praises of their captors. But coercive persuasion in our free society requires a little more skill. No force is required. All it takes is listening to someone who is talking. It also requires that you trust them, at least a little bit. If they do their job right, you will go willingly.

This picture is totally Photoshopped.

This picture is totally Photoshopped.

It does not involve hypnotic disks.
Hypnosis
is a broad word that means any varying state of consciousness other than the one you’re probably experiencing now. Various levels of hypnosis, trance, and meditation are sometimes used by cult groups, but this is never, ever a requirement.

No drugs, truth serums, elixirs, or magical incantations are used in brainwashing.
Other than a few 60′s cults that were using drugs anyway, I’ve never come across any thought reform involving chemicals. Nor does it have anything to do with Satan. No demonic possession, summoning of evil spirits, or worshiping pagan gods is required.

Brainwashed people are not glassy-eyed, drooling zombies.
Most actually appear quite normal. In fact, I would venture to say everyone ends up brainwashed to one degree or another, at some point in their lives. Our brains seem wired to accept manipulation and deception. It seems logical that humankind would have better survived those very dangerous first 100,000 years of pre-history by following a leader without question. Thought control merely capitalizes on those build-in survival skills we are all born with.

There is absolutely no way to know that you’ve been brainwashed.
That’s exactly the point. If you knew you were being controlled, you wouldn’t like it very much, and you wouldn’t stand for it. The manipulated fully believe they are making their own choices, that they are completely free to act in any way they choose.

A good deal of brainwashing involves setting up trigger thoughts, little tricks and traps that help you deflect any incoming facts, beliefs, thoughts, or feelings that would make you suddenly stop believing the lies you’ve been duped into. Part of this series is going to be identifying those traps, so you can avoid them in the first place.

(I could say “…and so you can escape if you’re already brainwashed.” But you see, if I were to accuse you of being controlled, you would immediately become defensive and protest, thinking, “There is no possible way!” That is exactly what I’m talking about.)

There is no “one size fits all” method of mind control.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can control some of the people all of the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can’t control all the people all the time. Manipulators throw out a line with some bait to see what bites. Sometimes it’s you, but usually you will laugh at their crazy ideas. Everyone is ripe for being manipulated at some point in their lives. Someone has something to say that will appeal specifically to you. You will always be able to see how other people are being brainwashed, but you won’t necessarily notice when it’s happening to you, because you will like it.

There are a lot of mind control tricks, but not all are required.
There isn’t a checklist that says, “Must meet all 50 requirements to be considered mind control”. To control, you only need to do what works.

Brainwashing is not total.
It is possible to be partly brainwashed. You can be brainwashed about certain topics but not others. You can be brainwashed to the point of doing or believing almost everything the leader wants, but not quite. Victims of mind control can eventually be freed.

This is what all Mind Control practitioners look like... NOT!

This is what all Mind Control practitioners look like… NOT!

Brainwashers are not creepy, bizarre, crazy, mean-spirited men who ooze evil and darkness from every pore.
Images of cackling, sneering, British-accept-wielding villains were created for the drama of movie fiction, not to reflect reality.

If you’re going to be good at manipulation, you’ve got to be likable. To persuade, you must be charismatic. To convince, you must be, well… convincing. I listened to old recordings of Jim Jones recorded just before the infamous Jonestown kool-aid mass-suicides and he sounded sincere, kind, loving, and wise.

Furthermore, controlling groups or ideologies work best when believers are taught to use brainwashing techniques themselves. That’s right. In almost every case, the controlled end up controlling.

No one is immune from mind control.
Not even me, not even after all I’ve learned about it. I can build up defenses, but even then I will be susceptible to it at some point.

Conclusion.
Now you know what mind control is not, which gives you an advantage over most people.

Yeah . . . this kinda isn't how it works either. Pretty cool graphic though, eh?

Yeah . . . ain’t workin’ is it?

(As originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs website on September 21, 2011)

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I have always found Luna Flesher Lindsey‘s work on Mind Control to be particularly good. She has written many fine articles on the subject and recently compiled her work into a book entitled, “Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control”.  This article has been lightly modified from the original version for this new context. Bon appetit! — Fred W. Anson

Mind catrol - ur doing it rong akshully

Mind catrol – ur doing it rong akshully

Mind Control 101: The Basics
by Luna Flesher Lindsey
Cult Conversion Walkthrough (Storytime!)
No one is immune from mind control. And contrariwise, mind control doesn’t always work. It takes the right combination of factors; specifically trust, common ideals, and receptivity.

Cults are a good place to study mind control because the changes they effect on people’s lives are extremely obvious.

Pretend for a moment you are having a difficult time in your life: a recent tragedy or major transition. Maybe you’ve just gone through divorce, lost a loved one, you’ve moved to a new town, or have recently been fired. You’re feeling alone, scared, depressed, ashamed, or desperate.

One day you encounter someone who is nice to you. Either it’s a friend or associate, or even a complete stranger. Maybe it is someone handing out pamphlets, or speaking to a crowd. Who ever it is, he has kind eyes, and you feel a little better when you’re around him. He also seems to share your values. Maybe he wants to help the poor, or he talks about the power of love, or God, or protecting animals. Imagine your greatest value, and he also shares that value with a level of passion you admire.

He invites you to a meeting or a party. Once there, you find a room full of people who say nice things to you, lifting your spirits. They are involved in a cause you wholeheartedly endorse. They take care of the sick or collect food for the poor, or educate kids about capitalism, or share the message of God to the world.

Being around these people makes you feel good. You feel as if you belong. You quickly forget your personal problems and begin spending more time with this group, working towards making the world a better place.

They have won your trust.

A completely staged, totally unrealistic depiction of a typical brainwasher. (Note the evil eyebrows.)

A completely staged, totally unrealistic depiction of a typical brainwasher. (Note the evil eyebrows.)

Slowly, you are introduced to new ideas you may not have accepted at first. Over time, more is required of you. More money, more time, more sacrifices. Your behavior is slowly restricted. Maybe you are required to dress a special way, eat or not eat certain foods, show up at a certain number of meetings, be so busy you don’t get proper sleep or nutrition. Now you are fairly receptive to what the leader may tell you. He will use this time to win more of your trust and make you more receptive. If you’ve had niggling doubts about your new friends or their beliefs, they are easily explained away.

Now the grip tightens. The leader teaches you doctrines to instill phobias about the outside world. You learn that your group has many enemies to fear. Those enemies are not to be listened to because you will be unable to resist when they try to lead you away from the love of the group. You are given thought-terminating cliche’s, phrases or words that help you easily dismiss criticism. You are elite, one of the chosen to help save the world from political error, or one of the blessed of God. Your very language is altered, as your words become “loaded”. This prevents you from properly thinking about certain concepts, and from properly communicating with people outside the group. You have become dependent upon the group for your emotional well-being, and you are possibly even physically or financially dependent. You are isolated, if not physically, then mentally, because there are many sources of information you are taught to distrust.

When you think about the group and its teachings, you are filled with a sense of euphoria. Thinking about outsiders or criticisms makes you feel anger or confusion. The thought of leaving the group or “switching sides” makes you feel guilty, ashamed, or afraid. If something is not going as promised, you blame yourself, not the group. There are no gray areas left in your world view — things are either good or evil, left or right, pure or tainted, full of life or death.

You now automatically reject any criticism, no matter how valid it is. You reject any fact that goes contrary to your beliefs, because your beliefs have become more important than reality. Certain words are now triggers that cause you to reject specific ideas before you even have a chance to hear them out.

You feel yourself to be perfectly rational, far more enlightened or intelligent than those with opposing views. Yet instead, your brain has been crippled from the mind viruses you voluntarily made part of you.

Jim Jones seemed like a really nice guy... till he lead 900 people to voluntarily drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

Jim Jones seemed like a really nice guy… till he lead 900 people to voluntarily drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

What Just Happened?
Here is the process:

1. Win Trust
Sometimes people just seem really trustworthy because they are kind, charismatic, or because everyone else also trusts and loves them.

2. Appeal to ideals, goals, beliefs. Win Trust
Sometimes people just seem really trustworthy because they are kind, charismatic, or because everyone else also trusts and loves them.

You probably feel very passionate about your beliefs, so it’s easy to involve you on this level. It’s also another way to win trust.

3. Create a state of emotions and receptivity
Once your defenses are down, there are many techniques for turning off your critical mind and putting you in an emotional state. There you are more willing to believe anything. Emotions may include fear, anger, idealistic euphoria, camaraderie, love, or any other strong emotion.

4. Slowly introduce new ideas and restrictions on thoughts and/or behavior
These are ideas or restrictions that dehumanize opponents, instill fears of the enemy, introduce thought-terminating cliche’s, create loaded words, give you feelings of elitism or of being special, and so on. This is the point at which you become tangled in the lie and become a perpetuator of that lie using the same techniques used against you.

It’s How We’re Wired
You don’t have to be a full member of a suicide cult to be manipulated. Mind control techniques are used every day: in the news, in commercials, in political speeches, on billboards, on the radio, in forwarded emails, and in conversations. Even abusive relationships practice the same manipulative methods.

We are always being asked to trust someone who wants to tell us who to fear, when to shut down our brains, who’s side to never respect, which facts are skewed and which are true. We are asked to immediately reject everything we disagree with and accept everything we agree with without question.

There used to be a lot more bowing and scraping. Those prone to backtalk were usually beheaded.

There used to be a lot more bowing and scraping. Those prone to backtalk were usually beheaded.

This process seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Our society now values free-thought, intellectual honesty, and persuasion through facts and reason, but this has not always been so. For most of history, mankind has blindly followed authority. Arguably, civilization might not have survived this far without these traits. Certainly, rebellious, contrarian individuals in those cultures didn’t survive long. Our minds seem prone to accept deceptive persuasive processes that bypass critical thinking. The tendency towards free thought was literally bred out of us.

It’s actually hard work to employ honest persuasion. We have to risk the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, which seems ever present in the harsh light of honesty. Our very brain chemicals make us unhappy when we critically question cherished beliefs.This process seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Our society now values free-thought, intellectual honesty, and persuasion through facts and reason, but this has not always been so. For most of history, mankind has blindly followed authority. Arguably, civilization might not have survived this far without these traits. Certainly, rebellious, contrarian individuals in those cultures didn’t survive long. Our minds seem prone to accept deceptive persuasive processes that bypass critical thinking. The tendency towards free thought was literally bred out of us.

Conversely, coercive persuasion is a much more comfortable process, but it always involves deception. Typically such persuaders believe the lies they tell. Followers of these distortions are just repeating the program, including mind control methods, they have been taught.

Who Can I Trust?
Ironically, you are actually more likely to be brainwashed by those you least expect to be capable. These will be people you fully trust, people with similar values and goals as you, someone who is on your side.

You cannot be brainwashed by someone you distrust, unless you are physically held hostage by them. This means if you hate liberals, you can’t be brainwashed by liberals. If you hate Republicans, you can’t be brainwashed by Republicans. If you’re God-fearing, you can never be brainwashed by atheists.

Think about that for a moment. The groups you might suspect most capable of mystically infecting your mind with deceit are actually the most incapable. Those you believe to be benevolent are those most capable of deceiving you, if they so choose.

There are members of every camp, every ideology, every school of thought who have used the powers of deceptive thought reform. Out there, somewhere, is a controlling group or belief system that is likely to appeal to you, that has the power to hook you and reel you in. It’s even possible, likely in fact, that it’s already happened to you to one degree or another.

When we’re born, we are about as helpless and dependent as we ever will be. We start out being programmed by our parents. In most ways, this is a good thing, because this is how we learn basic survival, how to behave in society, and how we gain culture and language. We learn useful values and principles. But we also come to blindly accept many untruths and thought patterns that keep us from critically thinking or asking questions when maybe we should.

I know it's true. I saw it on TV.

I know it’s true. I saw it on TV.

We also become susceptible when the world itself becomes terrifying. There are many things to fear: War, terrorism, disease, crime, violence, immorality, anarchy, socialism, racism, tyranny, oppression, and so on. Many will stand on podiums or behind TV screens and amplify those fears, and then promise to ease them if we but trust them. This isn’t much different from when a cult targets someone who has had a recent loss in their lives.

I have been brainwashed about some things. I still am, to some degree, even though I am aware of these techniques and do everything I can to spot them. But when someone is “on my side”, saying things I already tend to agree with, I’m just a little susceptible. And so are you.

Ultimately, you can only trust yourself. That is why questioning and critical thinking are so important. If you can become comfortable with cognitive dissonance and ok with being wrong, your mind becomes agile. If you learn good research techniques, you make yourself the ultimate authority. If you teach yourself rational habits and learn about the difference between good logic and fallacy, you can give yourself a built-in “baloney detector”. If you study mind control techniques, you shield yourself with awareness to disarm the lies. Trust yourself and become the guardian of your own mind.

And, hopefully, armed with this knowledge, you can be that much more immune to mind control. Because no one else can do it for you.

(As originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs website on September 5, 2011)

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A caution to transitioning Ex-Mormon Christians
00-0628c2

“Cosmic Conflict” by Lars Justinen

by Fred W. Anson
Without question the loss of community is one of the things most quickly, and often most painfully, felt by Mormons transitioning out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s why I believe that former Mormons can and should find encouragement and support by joining with others like themselves as soon as possible after exiting the Mormon Church. The stories of those who don’t are, all too often, heartbreaking.

However, sometimes the stories who do are even worse. That’s because all too often, Ex-Mormon support groups, that lack a positive sense of direction can deteriorate into a quagmire of complaints, bitterness and anger. As a result many former Latter-day Saints stay stuck in a negative attitude for the rest of their life after leaving the Mormon Church. And we all have stories of those who have gotten downright mean and nasty.

This need not be!

While I understand that most people in the healing process need a gracious place where those feelings can be vented I always encourage my Christian Ex-Mormon friends to press past the quagmire of angry bitterness and into health and happiness through a restored relationship with the God of the Bible and His covenant people.

This is possible but requires belief and trust that God’s word is true when it says:

‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.’

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:6-10 (NIV)

Simply put, I have found that all too often transitioning Mormons cut their own healing short and fail to gain the hard won wisdom that God is trying to impart to them by choosing to attack Mormonism rather than staying in the humble, reflective, broken place of learning spoken of in this passage. All too often it seems that they are trying to resurrect and exalt themselves by trying to kill and destroy their “Judas” rather than waiting for God to avenge, resurrect and lift them up as Christ did. As one Pastor said well of such God-given (but rarely welcome) lessons:

As soon as you pick up the sword the lesson ends.
Pastor Kevin Davenport, Saddleback Covenant Church (Mission Viejo, CA)

Yes, transitioning Ex-Mormon, an injustice has been done: You have been betrayed – and now your betrayers are out to crucify you! We acknowledge and validate that fact. However, there will be time enough for the sword later. The Mormon Church isn’t going anywhere, and we know where to find it because it’s a stronghold. But as Jesus said of strongholds:

No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.
Mark 3:37 (NKJV)

Binding the strong man and then plundering his house is going to take God given strength, wisdom and persistence! That’s why I encourage you to stay humble, submitted, and attentive to God’s lessons. You’ve been broken: Stay here for awhile, let others bind up your wounds then wait for them to heal. Be Christ not Peter. And always remember the words of Christ who not only said but also modeled:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 (NKJV)

Gain strength and acquire wisdom. then, once you’re whole, strong, wise, and endowed with power from on high, you may1 hear this call: “Go forth and conquer in My Name!” If so, then pick up your sword and we’ll storm the gates of the LdS Church together!2

Amen?

1-the-civil-war-wounded-soldiers-in-ward-everett

Suffice to say, these folks probably shouldn’t be storming the gates of hell for a while.

NOTES
1 And you may not hear that call – which is absolutely fine too. Many Ex-Mormons after they’re whole, strong, wise, and endowed with God’s power simply close the chapter of their life called, “The Mormon Church” and walk the other direction never looking back. God calls who He will to what He will and not all are called to storm gates.

2 See Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) which says:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Credits and Acknowledgments
The core principles introduced in this article are expounded and expanded on more fully in Gene Edwards’ classic book, “A Tale of three Kings: A Study in Brokenness”. This book has been of great aid and comfortable to recovering ex-cultists for over three decades. It’s a riveting tale that can easily be read in one or two sittings (it’s only 105 pages long). You will find the Amazon page for Mr. Edward’s book here. I simply can NOT recommend this book highly enough. I know that’s it’s a cliche but this book truly is a lifechanger and a must read!

Portions of the above text are from the introduction of Ross Anderson’s, “Jesus Without Joseph”. Once again, this is another resource for Ex-Mormons that I can’t recommend highly enough.

frigid temple

“The Mormon Church isn’t going anywhere, and we know where to find it because it’s a stronghold.”

“The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”
Exodus 14:14 (CEB)

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“The Price of Nice” by John Bradshaw

Reviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Recovering Agency: The Price of Nice
Author: John Bradshaw
Publisher: John Bradshaw Media Group
Genre: Non-fiction, psychology
Year Published: 2008
Length: 100 minutes
Binding: Audio CD
ISBN10: 1573882259
ISBN13: 978-1573882255
Price: $70.00

Many of us remember John Bradshaw through his two PBS televised series on the family and “Inner Child” therapy (entitled “Bradshaw on the Family” and “Homecoming” respectively) with fondness. Some of us had an epiphany, others had fodder for new jokes, and still others had both. I was in the last category. At first I found in Bradshaw an endless mine for jokes (“My family was so out of control you could have used it for a wind chime”, “My inner child punched your inner child in the nose”, etc.)  but many years and several family traumas later found it to be a rich well of wisdom . . . and some really silly “out there” New Agey junk.  With Bradshaw one has to have one’s discernment filters up to separate the wheat from the chaff. Thankfully the audiobook being reviewed here is, in this reviewer’s estimation, mostly wheat.

Those familiar with those earlier Bradshaw works will remember that he repeatedly introduced the concept of the price of nice in them both. However, he didn’t go into much detail on it, nor did he give the antidote for the problem. “Problem?” the reader may be asking at this point, “How can being nice be a problem?” As the product description from Mr. Bradshaw’s website explains:

“The price is of nice is about your own life, and not really being connected with others,” says noted New York Times Best Selling Author John Bradshaw“Nice people often finish last in many ways.”

In this powerful lecture, THE PRICE OF NICE, psychologist and Emmy nominated talk show host John Bradshaw, exposes the hidden and frequently destructive forces behind the façade of being the “nice guy”, a people pleaser and co-dependent. This lecture is for people who use “nice” as a disguise to cover shame. John Bradshaw uncovers the dishonestly, selfishness, and resentments that builds as a result. He explains how to heal from co-dependency.

From our earliest years, we learn that we are rewarded with acceptance for being “nice” at the expense of being denied the expression of our true feelings or being who we really are. Ultimately, we become the actor in a role of being the nice guy or sweetheart. John Bradshaw explains how such behavior can destroy relationships and intimacy by never being honestly connected with others. It creates an intimacy vacuum where the victim is the nice person

In its ultimate destructive form, it erupts into rage or spontaneous acts of violence or it can be internalized in the form of emotional or physical illness. John Bradshaw offers practical insights into how we can learn to be kind but firmly direct about how we feel and find that place in our lives where we can be who we are. This series provides excellent resources and will help the listener understand how toxic, and potentially dangerous, a person who is, on most levels, “too nice,” can be. Ministers, counselors, therapists and anyone in helping professions could gain much understanding from the material found in this series. The problem with being overly nice is that it is a mask for stored internal rage and it is at the same time rage producing.

And as he explains in the lecture, nice behavior eventually has a price for both the nice person and the people involved with him/her. It is alienating, indirectly hostile, and self destructive because:

1. The nice person tends to create an atmosphere such that others avoid giving honest, genuine feedback. This blocks emotional growth.

2. Nice behavior will ultimately be distrusted by others. That is,it generates a sense of uncertainty and lack of safety in others who can never be sure if they be supported by the nice person in a crisis situation that requires an aggressive confrontation with others.

3. Nice people stifle growth of others. They avoid giving others genuine feedback,and deprive others of a real person to assert against. This tends to force others in the relationship to turn their aggression against themselves. It also tends to generate guilt and depressed feelings in others who are intimately involved and dependent on them.

4. Because of chronic niceness others can never be certain if the relationship with a nice person can endure a conflict or sustain an angry confrontation. If it did occur spontaneously, This places great limits on the potential extent of intimacy in the relationship by placing others constantly on their guard.

5. Nice behavior is not reliable. Periodically the nice person explodes in unexpected rage and those involved are shocked and unprepared to cope with it.

6. The nice person by holding aggression in, may pay a physiological price in the form of psychosomatic problems and a psychological price in the form of alienation.

7. Nice behavior is emotionally unreal behavior. It puts severe limitations on all relationships and the ultimate victim is the nice person him/her self.

Mr. Bradshaw explains in the lecture that the antidote for nice behavior isn’t being mean, it’s being authentic. This can be a scary proposition for those of us who have become accustomed to using “nice” as a defense or coping mechanism. In particular, those recovering from a religious addiction may come to find that the “Be ye nice!” 11th Commandment of far too many of our faith communities has become so embedded in their theology and religious worldview that it’s painful to knead it slowly out of the tangled up knot that they’ve created. Very often from these individuals, we will hear the protest that to not be “nice” isn’t Christlike (or whatever religious terminology that’s used to justify using niceness as a hiding place and aggression suppressant). To those folks I offer this:

800px-El_Greco_016_edited

El Greco, “Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple” (circa 1600)

Jesus wasn’t Christ-like
Jesus was incredulous.
He was exasperated.
He was furious.
He insulted.
He ridiculed.
He told of coming judgment.
He exorcised demons.
He said he was God.
He said he had final authority given to him to judge the living and the dead.
He said he had power over life and death.
He scared people.
He confused people.
He repulsed people.
He wouldn’t answer questions asked by the local authorities.
He stayed away three days knowing Lazarus would die, and then wept when he showed up to his tomb.
He supplied the party wine.
He preached fire and brimstone.
He used satire and mockery.
He frustrated his mother.
He told his apostles they had new names when he met them.
He used frustratingly vague metaphors and parables to purposefully judge a stubborn people (fulfilling Isaiah), and then later told the hidden meanings to the apostles.
He chose a forerunner who looked and smelled like a crazy hobo, and who badgered the local mayor over sexual and marital ethics.
He healed people on the Sabbath just to tweak the religious elite.
He monitored financial giving and gave live commentary on it.
He said the world hated him and his followers.
He told people to eat his flesh and drink his blood and let them walk away misinterpreting.
He had incredibly awkward and blunt conversations about spiritual things 15 seconds into meeting a stranger.
He let a presumably sensual woman wipe his feet with her hair.
He told a female stranger that she had five husbands.
He went out to eat with creepy guys who preyed on families via financial extortion.
He went to the most significant religious structure local to him and said he would destroy and rebuild it, speaking of his own body and predicting the destruction to come.
He said he existed before Abraham.
What is “Christ-like” about any of that?[1]

Based on the example of Christ alone I would suggest that Bradshaw is onto something: Christ was always authentic even though He wasn’t always “nice”. I would propose to my fellow recovering religious addicts that it’s far better to be authentically genuine than inauthentically nice. Perhaps being truly Christlike, simply means being yourself – that is the new creation spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17 under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. I can’t help but wonder if that was what Paul was really describing in Romans 8 and Galatians 5 when he wrote about “walking in the Spirit”. The incarnated Christ exemplified “walking in the Spirit” and showed the full range of human emotion and behavior – including aggression and directness in that walk.[2] Simply put, the price of nice is too high if it means compromising truly Christlike behavior isn’t it?

In the end, I found “The Price of Nice” to be an enlightening and liberating audiobook – and one with significant biblical support to boot.[3] I suspect that you will too.

John Bradshaw

John Bradshaw

NOTES:
[1] Aaron Shafovaloff, “Jesus wasn’t Christ-like” And for those wondering this isn’t in the Bradshaw lecture, I’ve added it here to support my point.

[2] I tackled the subject of the biblical case for aggression in my review of Andy Stanley’s book “Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You” entitled, “Three Hits and a ‘Whiff'”.

[3] For those who are unaware, John Bradshaw was raised Roman Catholic and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Theology. Due to the rather overt New Age and Post Modern nature of some of his teachings I’m uncertain what where he stands theologically today – though in my opinion, he seems to be leaning toward the old heresy of Christian Pantheism – though I could be wrong.

As I said in the introduction, one must always have one’s discernment filters up to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to Bradshaw. I always find an abundant of gems in his work but sometimes I have to push aside some pockets of New Age rubbish to get to it.

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 by Fred W. Anson
A funny thing happened on the way to this blog when I wrote it back in August 2011. I was actually planning to publish – and was working on – brand new, original material when several of the Mormon Expression Podcast and Blog discussion boards “lit up” with interesting dialog. I feel that that the content of this previously published article is relevant to several of them. So with no further adieu – and with a nod, a wink, and a grin to Eric’s blog (from back then) – I offer for your consideration, “The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)”.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Artist’s depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Here’s the problem
If you’re in an Army Tank and pull out a compass the needle will point toward magnetic north. However, the compass is only validated if when you get outside that Tank and it’s still pointing in the exact same direction.Then, it’s only truly validated if it’s compared to yet another “known good” compass while outside the tank and they both point in the same direction. That is, the one point of internal reference and two points of external reference are all calibrated. The reason for this is simple: The magnetic field created by the iron armor of the Tank interferes with the compass’s operating integrity. You could consult a thousand compasses inside the Tank, and still get the same compromised and errant result every time.

A Stanley Pocket Compass and a map. You will notice that the compass is pointing true magnetic North and will always do so anywhere on earth regardless of the level of the user’s faith, diligence, or the orientation of the map. The only exception is if it’s ability to integrate itself with true North is compromised or blocked by an magnetic field other than the earth’s.

A million compasses?
14-million?
A billion?
Same result time after time.

Thus it’s only when one eliminates the corrupting influence of the Tank that the compass will give a proper and accurate reading. However, even then one must validate the integrity of the compass itself by validating it against a compass that is known to have full integrity – that is, you have confirmed that the dynamic guidance system for the internal system (the compass) is fully integrated with fixed external reality (the earth’s magnetic field).

Validating An Internal System
Thus an internal system is only validated if the trustworthiness of it’s operation has been established – that is, it is consistent and calibrated against a set of objective, dispassionate, unchanging, absolute external standards. A system that’s not tested and that’s only internally consistent with and calibrated against itself is prone to corruption and, therefore, is not trustworthy.

Short version: Internal evidence that hasn’t been validated against external evidence can’t be completely trusted!

And practically speaking, this is important stuff because if you’re trying to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the corrupted compass readings inside the Tank you just might end up in the Nevada Desert instead!

An artist’s recreation of the “Liahona” – the Book of Mormon ‘compass’ that only worked “according to the faith and diligence” (1 Nephi 16:28) with which the user heeded its direction.

The Mormon Tank
Mormonism is like a tank – the “compass” may appear to be “true” while you’re inside – after all it “feels right” and everything seems to nicely integrated, correlated, unified, logical, rational  and “working” – but all the while the Mormon Tank is corrupting the end result. It’s not only not externally integrated with true “north” – it hasn’t really been established that the “compass” itself is working properly!

Which, of course, is why it seems to me that the LdS Church Leadership instructs and directs members to ignore external, objective evidence. For to do so is like taking a compass outside of a tank and discovering that the thick iron walls of the tank were skewing how both the compass reported “truth” and, thus, how you discerned “truth” while you were hunkered down inside it.

And I think that’s why my experience has been that that when one attempts to calibrate the internal Mormon system against external reality it simply does not validate.

(As originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs website on August 13, 2011) 

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Almighty God,

I am loved with everlasting love,
clothed in eternal righteousness,
my peace flowing like a river,
my comforts many and large,
my joy and triumph unutterable,
my soul lively with a knowledge of salvation,
my sense of justification unclouded.

I have scarce anything to pray for;
Jesus smiles upon my soul as a ray of heaven
and my supplications are swallowed up in praise.

How sweet is the glorious doctrine of election
when based upon thy Word
and wrought inwardly within the soul!

LockedDoorWithLight

I bless thee that thou wilt keep the sinner
thou hast loved,
and hast engaged that he will not forsake thee,
else I would never get to heaven.

I wrong the work of grace in my heart
if I deny my new nature and my eternal life.

If Jesus were not my righteousness and redemption,
I would sink into nethermost hell
by my misdoings, shortcomings, unbelief, unlove;

If Jesus were not by the power of his Spirit
my sanctification,
there is no sin I should not commit.

O when shall I have his mind!
when shall I be conformed to his image?

All the good things of life are less than nothing
when compared with his love,
and with one glimpse of thy electing favour.

All the treasures of a million worlds could not
make me richer, happier, more contented,
for his unsearchable riches are mine.

One moment of communion with him, one view
of his grace,
is ineffable, inestimable.

But O God, I could not long after thy presence
if I did not know the sweetness of it;

And such I could not know except by thy Spirit
in my heart, nor love thee at all unless thou didst
elect me,
call me,
adopt me,
save me.

I bless thee for the covenant of grace.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)